Although it may be hard to remember, there once was a time when law school classrooms were void of the constant thunder produced by typing on laptop keyboards. Then again, there also was a time when social networking only referred to handing out business cards to other people. In this age of social networking websites such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, it is no surprise that law students on one side of the classroom are chatting with students on the other side of the room about the teacher’s choice of ties worn in class.
Both Barry University School of Law and Florida A&M College of Law here in Orlando have wireless internet access in classrooms. There has been a great deal of debate at both institutions about the benefits and detriments of internet access, and it has been dealt with in many ways. Many times professors state in their syllabus that internet access on social networking sites is forbidden. Although rare, some professors will entrust students with the responsibility of monitoring their own internet use.
A discussion regarding the benefits and detriments of internet in the law classroom is necessary. Having internet in the classroom is beneficial in the sense that it allows students to access cases discussed in passing by the professor. Additionally, court opinions in legal textbooks often cite other opinions which may warrant further investigation to better understand the legal concept. Opponents may pose a valid argument that the students should instead research the case citation at home rather than in class. There have been many times where a professor will ask students to research a case or statute in class for the current discussion- not having internet in the classroom may hinder this teaching practice. The most obvious detriment is that students fail to pay attention to the class discussions.
Barry University School of Law utilizes an examination software which uploads essay answers to a secure location to be graded. The school requires that students upload these answers prior to leaving campus or suffer the consequences of violating the school’s honor code. The uploads take place immediately upon completion of the exam. Not having internet in the classroom would require a modifications to the honor code and examination upload procedures.
Changes in policies are easy, but even with internet in the classroom there still exists the inappropriate use of the internet. Other students do not care to see you purchase underwear from sites such as Victoria’s Secret. Furthermore, your class co-counsel hates seeing your pictures from your drunken night before, unless of course the professor is not talking about something important. I admit though that it is entertaining to make fun of the Shark’s latest attempt at derailing the discussion with other classmates via chatting and facebook status update
Even if law schools disconnect wireless internet routers, technology has advanced to such a point where students can access the internet. Tethering is the term for connecting a computer to a cell phone and using the phone’s internet access on the computer.
The truth of the matter is that law school lectures are often boring and paying attention to the monotone voice of the professor is often difficult. Law students wishing to bide their time in the classroom will use social networking sites to help. After all, you are paying thousands of dollars for you education, if you wish to spend it tending to your “farm” on facebook be my guest…you are helping out the the grading curve.
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